Introversion: A Superpower

     If a car ran into me as I was crossing the street, I’d probably apologize to the driver. Whether that’s because I’m half British and living up to the stereotype, a woman, or it’s simply a natural part of my personality, I’m not quite sure. But my knee-jerk reaction is to say sorry more often than I should. I tend to leave things unsaid to avoid conflict. I also tend to live in my head. It’s safer up there.

     When people I meet in college find out I used to do theatre, I’m usually met with surprise. I’m not super loud and generally don’t try to take up a ton of space or attention - the opposite of the stereotypical theatre kid. That’s one of the many reasons I adored being on stage, actually. It gave me a chance to break out of my everyday mold and shock people as Rizzo from “Grease”, Ursula from “The Little Mermaid”, Sheila Bryant from “A Chorus Line”, Medda Larkin from “Newsies”; the list goes on. Sassy, brassy characters like those hold a special place in my heart because becoming them always gave me the biggest surge of confidence. They allowed me to let loose with my inner persona; they represent what I wish I was more like in real life.

     As a tour guide for Baylor University, I’m surrounded by extroverts. My coworkers and I get paid to talk, so it only makes sense. I adore my job, but as an introvert, the amount of stimuli at work can be overwhelming at times. It can take a toll on a person who’s naturally inclined to keep to themselves. Especially after giving a tour, my social battery has got to recharge. You just can’t be “on” all the time. Sometimes, when I’m on a computer working on files in the office, a group of five or six large personalities will be in the workroom chatting up a storm and I feel too exhausted to keep up. It can feel like a competition of whose mouth moves the most that I just can’t win. When I feel ready, I’ll try and pipe in. They’ll either ignore me, genuinely not hear me and keep talking, or say, “What was that?” and I’ll feel put on the spot. Should I speak up more? Yes. But what certain people don’t understand is if that happens enough, the person in my place tends to give up and shut down.

     A few weeks ago, I was clocking out and came upon a talkative group of my coworkers in the lobby discussing astrology. Someone said they were a Sagittarius, and my ears perked up - that’s my zodiac sign, too. So, I chimed in and said, “Did someone say they’re a Sagittarius?” No one heard me. I waited for a moment, sighed internally and started to walk out the door. And then, this one girl gives me the most confused and rude “What?” I’ve ever heard. I turn around and she looks like she just smelled something rotten. She’s very chatty, and at times, abrasive. In my mind, her one word meant “What did you say? God, you’re so quiet.”

     Everyone in the astrology talk had turned around as well. All confused and expectant eyes were on me. Their gazes seemed to say, “Well? What is it?” In that moment, I was mortified. I was just trying to contribute. It didn’t work. They didn’t notice. But now, now they’d like to know what I had said? Interesting. Exasperated, I muttered, “Never mind.” and walked out. And then, I proceeded to plop my backpack on the bench near the engineering and computer science building and break down. My body was suddenly wracked with sobs and I wasn’t quite sure why. It had been a long day already, and that unnecessary tone she used with me and the stares I got just tipped me over the edge. Although most are harmless, each “What was that?” or “What did you say?” is like a tiny jab. Over time, they truly add up. 

     At times, I become insanely insecure about my demeanor. I feel like sometimes I’m perceived as cold and aloof, when in reality, I really just prefer listening to talking. As my dad says, humans are given two ears and only one mouth for a reason. After listening to my “Sappy Showtunes” playlist and reading a couple chapters of my book, I began to calm down. My quiet, stoic nature is one of my strengths, not my weaknesses. At the risk of sounding conceited, I tend to pick up on cues and details that others don’t. I’ve got this sixth sense about when people are being disingenuous and everyone else loves them. I remember people’s birthdays like nobody’s business. I drop tidbits about people into conversations that happened months prior, and it always makes them smile. 

     If you’re like I am, don’t fret. Introversion isn’t something that needs to be cured. It’s not a synonym for “socially awkward” or “shy”. If it takes you longer than most to open up, dear reader, that is totally valid. The people you meet who become closest to you will possess the patience and empathy to allow you to blossom, and I think that’s something worth waiting for. When the world seems too full of noise and you feel like you can’t keep up, just take pride in who you are and don’t let anyone drown you out or make you feel less than. Often, those who speak the least have the most things of value to say. Quiet is powerful.